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Tuesday, 21 August 2018
Page: 8012

Mr ROBERT (Fadden) (19:34): It's time to talk about energy policy in a way that makes sense and that is factual. We can have different ideas in this House, the people's House; it's hard to have different facts and facts speak for themselves.

When it comes to energy, these are the facts. During six years of the previous Labor government, electricity prices doubled and went up each and every year. Fact: Labor federal and state policies have continued to increase pressure on prices. Fact: in my state of Queensland, where generation is responsible for some 30 per cent of power prices and distribution for 50 per cent of power prices, 80 per cent of the power prices are set by the Labor state government, by regulation, to ensure that a return of up to six per cent goes back to the Crown. Eighty per cent of the price of your power bill is set by the Labor state government through regulation.

Fact: job-destroying gas bans and moratoriums in New South Wales and Victoria, unrealistic renewable energy targets of up to 50 per cent and open hostility to dispatchable power from gas and coal are driving up power prices. Fact: our record has been to fix this mess. We've turned the corner on power prices now, with reductions announced in Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia from 1 July this year. We've done this by requiring power companies to provide better deals for millions of customers, by securing priority gas supply for Australians before exporting overseas and by stopping the energy networks from gaming the system which, if undertaken by Labor, would have cost consumers $6.5 billion.

Fact: we are investing in national infrastructure like Snowy Mountains 2.0. We're taking further action; we're not content to sit back on our laurels. We're fast-tracking recommendations made by the ACCC to boost competition in the energy sector. We're supporting the financing of projects that will see new generation assets built for large commercial and industrial customers. The ACCC and the regulator will begin work on calculating a default price. The savings for residential customers moving to the new default offer will range from somewhere between $183 to $416. For the average small to medium-sized business, the savings could range between $567 and almost $1,500.

The Treasurer has directed the ACCC, with the regulator, to commence comprehensive electricity price monitoring into the prices, profits and margins in the supply of electricity in the National Electricity Market. This is action—serious action. The ACCC will prepare ongoing reports, identifying cases where outcomes are unacceptable. If the businesses fail to rectify the issues, the ACCC will be able to recommend a proportional and targeted response for the Treasurer's determination. This could include enforceable undertakings, fines and divestment as a last resort. This is action. This is what it looks like to ensure our energy prices are the cheapest they could possibly be.

We will create more reliability in the system, with new requirements for more dispatchable power, including coal, gas and hydro, which will lower prices and stop blackouts. The government is not in a position to take an emissions component forward because it's already there. We have voluntary targets that we will meet. There is no requirement to enshrine emission components anywhere on a legislative basis and we won't do it. There is no reason why providers cannot start building a new coal-fired power station in Queensland right now. If it stacks up for them price-wise, I would encourage them to do so.

History has shown that the Labor Party is the party of blackouts and higher electricity prices through, in the words of the Business Council of Australia, their 'economic wrecking' 45 per cent emissions reduction target and their 50 per cent Renewable Energy Target. Labor wants more subsidies, higher prices and greater unreliability; it will lead to less employment. Under Labor's emissions intensity scheme, households would pay an average $300 more on their power bills compared to under the coalition, where savings would be upwards of $400.

Labor's true thinking was revealed by the Labor Environment Action Network, which said that high prices are not a market failure, they are proof of the market working well. I say to the Australian people: high prices are proof of Labor meddling in the energy markets, where we need the market to operate effectively and seamlessly. We need it to operate in a way that makes prices the cheapest they possibly can be, or, in the words and the recommendations of the ACCC, 'We will step in to protect consumers'.